Canadian musician Grimes shows how to embrace generative AI for fun and profit

Back in November last year, Walled Culture wrote about the growing panic in the copyright world as a result of generative AI programs writing music. Since then, the issue the entered the mainstream, not least with the following story, reported here by The New York Times:

For Drake and the Weeknd, two of the most popular musicians on the planet, the existence of “Heart on My Sleeve,” a track that claimed to use A.I. versions of their voices to create a passable mimicry, may have qualified as a minor nuisance — a short-lived novelty that was easily stamped out by their powerful record company.

But for others in the industry, the song — which became a viral curio on social media, racking up millions of plays across TikTok, Spotify, YouTube and more before it was removed this week — represented something more serious: a harbinger of the headaches that can occur when a new technology crosses over into the mainstream consciousness of creators and consumers before the necessary rules are in place.

As a post on The Verge explains, things are actually much more complex than that, and it’s still not clear who did what. But more interesting in many ways is a tweet by the Canadian musician Grimes, who wrote:

I’ll split 50% royalties on any successful AI generated song that uses my voice. Same deal as I would with any artist I collab with. Feel free to use my voice without penalty. I have no label and no legal bindings.

I think it’s cool to be fused w[ith] a machine and I like the idea of open sourcing all art and killing copyright”

That seems a much more pragmatic approach to the inevitable and widespread use of generative AI, rather than simply screaming “copyright infringement” and chasing it through the courts. It could also see the creation of interesting new music that would otherwise not exist. However, there are other issues, as Grimes recognises in another tweet:

Ok hate this part but we may do copyright takedowns ONLY for r[ea]ly r[ea]ly toxic lyrics w[ith] grimes voice: imo you’d r[ea]ly have to push it for me to wanna take s[o]m[e]th[i]n[g] down but I guess plz don’t be *the worst*. as in, try not to exit the current Overton window of lyrical content w[ith] regards to sex/violence. Like no baby murder songs plz.

Although Grimes suggests that copyright takedowns could be used to deal with this issue, that’s unlikely to work as a solution everywhere – for example, in jurisdictions where this is seen as a parody and permitted under local laws. Nonetheless, it’s good to see an artist embracing technology, like generative AI, in this way, and beginning to grapple with the difficult questions it inevitably raises.

Featured image from Elf Tech.

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